As a CEO, you’re at least partially responsible for directing, inspiring, and leading a team of employees. Most people take this as a cue to be as professional and distant as possible, setting a firm standard of stoic, duty-focused professionalism for others to follow. An impression of strength removes vulnerabilities and allows others to trust you, right?
However, it’s often even more valuable to break down those walls and personally connect with your team of employees — or at least those closest to you. After all, we don’t trust ideas or value systems; we trust people. And if you don’t seem approachable, your team will never view you as someone to be trusted (or followed).
The Importance of Bonding
Forging personal connections with your employees can yield several positive benefits. For starters, your employees will feel more comfortable in their environment. They’ll be more likely to openly communicate with you when they encounter an obstacle or have a request to improve their work conditions. There’s no need to hide work-related problems when solving them feels like a collaborative effort.
You’ll also learn more about your employees on a human level, which can help you balance their strengths and weaknesses. Better yet, you can learn how to motivate them individually. Assuming you encourage not only direct bonding with your employees, but also bonding between employees, you can create an environment of efficient and natural collaboration. That means your team won’t just be a team in name — it will actually operate like one.
Forming Personal Connections
There are a few strategies you can use to form a tighter personal connection with your team members without sacrificing your integrity as a leader:
1. Dress more casually (on occasion).
For the most part, you set an example with the way you dress. In many industries, a professional suit and tight grooming are a must. But on occasion, consider dressing down a bit more to show your more relaxed casual side. Every other Friday, for example, you could wear a Hawaiian shirt and shorts. Feel free to experiment with your image, whether that means wearing custom gold grillz or sporting your local football team’s jersey. These moves showcase your personal side and prove you’re not simply a robotic leader in a suit.
2. Talk about your personal life.
There needs to be a boundary between your work life and your personal life. But that doesn’t mean you can’t ever talk about your personal interests. For example, you could strike up a conversation with an employee about where she went to school or how his family is doing. Talk about your spouse or your hobbies when the subject comes up. These informal conversations can help you see people in a different light. They can also make you feel closer to — and more trusting of — the other person.
3. Admit your mistakes and limits.
Admitting your mistakes, faults, and limitations is one of the most powerful things you can do as a leader. Many CEOs intentionally try to hide their mistakes and present an image that they’re nearly perfect. However, this sets an impossible standard for employees to follow. Worse, it can make you seem impersonal or even arrogant. Instead, admitting when you are wrong or have made a mistake can make employees trust you more. It can also show them that it’s OK to admit when you’re struggling (or imperfect).
4. Set goals to achieve together.
Nothing encourages collaboration and bonding more than trying to achieve a mutual goal. While it’s important to set individual goals, both for yourself and for your employees, you should go out of your way to create some goals that you can work to achieve together. That could mean trying to reach a certain revenue target, striving for a certain level of productivity, or achieving something specific to your industry.
5. Be transparent in your decision-making.
Transparency is one of the best ways to keep employee morale high, and it can be a powerful way to form bonds with your team. That doesn’t mean you need to start making decisions by committee, but the simple act of explaining why and how you came to an important decision can earn employee trust. It can also inspire team members to play a more integral role within the team.
6. Initiate — and get involved in — team-building events.
Finally, try to arrange and participate in a wider variety of team-building activities. There’s a ton of flexibility here; you can host a barbecue at a local park, try an escape room or murder mystery together, or simply go out for lunch on a periodic basis.
You don’t have to be best friends with all your employees, nor do you need to let your personal and professional lives bleed into each other. But these steps can go a long way toward making your employees feel more recognized, appreciated, and integrated within your team. They can help you better direct your team, too. Experiment with these tactics to get closer to your team — it will make you all feel more successful.